Eight NHL teams just completed the latest installment of the Michigan prospect showdown and our expert has scouting reports on a whole slew of youngsters you’ll want to know about
TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. – Another tourney is in the books, as the Columbus Blue Jackets defending their Traverse City prospects tournament title with a 5-2 win over the home team Detroit Red Wings. There was a lot of talent again this year, so I’ve put together mini scouting reports on many of the big names, plus others who caught my eye.
I was at two days of games, watching double-headers that were staggered between two rinks in the same building. So I saw more of some teams than others, though I tried to keep it even. If you don’t see your fave player here, it’s because he didn’t catch me eye enough – which is not to say he didn’t play well, but rather that there were a lot of prospects in play and I wouldn’t want to pretend to see more than I did.
Also, some teams had a lot of free agents on their squads since NCAA players couldn’t participate due to eligibility issues and some teams don’t have deep prospect pools right now. Chicago and the Rangers – both in contender mode right now – are two examples. They fought for last place, so we’ll start with them and work our way up to the champs.
Brady Skjei – Due to a minor shoulder injury, Skjei did not play New York`s final game and with goalie Brandon Halverson’s ankle keeping him out of the whole tourney, it was a tough go for the Baby Blueshirts. But in my initial viewing of Skjei, the defenseman displayed that great skating acumen that he has always been known for. Defensively, he always seems to be on the right side of the puck and he`ll get a chance to show off his offensive side in the AHL this year.
Ryan Graves – I liked Graves a lot at the Memorial Cup last season and he showed similar success in Traverse City. His size and reach on the blueline are obvious, but he adds a great physical element and solid positioning to the mix as well.
Adam Tambellini – Goal scoring is Tambellini’s calling card and he popped the water bottle against Chicago in New York’s tourney-ending loss. Otherwise, I liked his anticipation when he didn’t have the puck and he showed well when given penalty-kill duty.
Ryan Hartman – Hartman was the leader, wearing the captain’s ‘C’ and showing off that grittiness he is known for. He also played great on the defensive side of the puck and showed off some nice quickness.
Radovan Bondra – I loved Bondra at the world juniors, so naturally I kept an eye on him here. A big kid who will take a hit to make a play, Bondra is a very defensively attentive winger. Is there untapped offense in his game? That’s the question.
Mike Reilly – There was a lot of anticipation surrounding Reilly coming into the tournament and a little more was expected in the end. The Wild boys got bombed in a couple games and part of that was a lack of weapons up front, so that didn’t help my impression. At the same time, he was one of the best Minnesota players and his skating ability and poise with the puck were as advertised. Awareness is something he needs to work on, as he got trucked with his head down by St. Louis’ Liam Dunda and lost Emil Molin for a Dallas goal in the tourney finale.
Gustav Olofsson – For me, Olofsson was Minnesota’s best defenseman and best player overall. His advanced skating ability allowed him to make dangerous jumps into the rush, while also enabling him to get back quickly on the defensive side of the puck. There was a nice chippiness to his game and Olofsson had some epic battles with fellow speedster Robby Fabbri of St. Louis.
Christoph Bertschy – The Minnesota offense was a fail, though Bertschy was dangerous – his linemates just didn’t help that much. The Swiss national was speedy, shifty and very involved.
Mattias Janmark – As one of the older players in the tournament, Janmark was naturally one of the most mature participants as well. The Swede has a great knack for goal-scoring and he really helped Dallas in that regard.
Julius Honka – Skating is one of Honka’s hallmarks and living up to billing, he was very mobile and dangerous as an offensive defenseman. He also delivered some nice open-ice hits, so there’s an edge there, too.
Radek Faksa – It`s been a hard road for the Czech first-rounder, what with a shoulder injury taking a big chunk out of his 2014-15 season. So it was nice to see him so involved in Traverse City. Faksa is big, physical and focused. He may turn out to be a second or third line guy in the NHL, but he’ll give it his full effort.
Cole Ully – The Kamloops kid has some serious wheels. Not only does that make Ully effective on the rush, but he’s also very disruptive on the forecheck.
Devin Shore – The University of Maine product played a nice mature game and was very dangerous offensively. Nice hands in tight for a goal against Detroit.
Sergey Tolchinsky – Everything is done fast by Tolchinsky and that’s why he is so fun to watch in the offensive end. Incredible hands and very quick cuts when he’s moving around with the puck.
Haydn Fleury – The size and mobility are obviously great attributes, particularly when the blueliner rounds the corner on a guy while he’s rushing the puck. But Fleury is also a smart player who knows when to pinch and when to break up a pass.
Phil Di Giuseppe – I loved the high pace that Di Giuseppe played at in the tourney. Physical, energetic and potent in the offensive zone.
Brett Pesce – So smart. The former New Hampshire defenseman has great anticipation, which he uses to break up passes. He was really solid overall for the Canes.
Trevor Carrick – I had been opining about where the Canes’ future snarl would come from on the back end and maybe Carrick is the answer. The D-man plays a nasty physical game but can also burn the competition when he jumps into the rush.
Robby Fabbri – The best overall player in the tournament for me, Fabbri was an unholy terror for the Blues, using his speed and offensive vision to rack up points. His quickness in closing on defenders while forechecking also caused havoc and he was a great penalty killer because of it.
Ivan Barbashev – Fabbri’s running mate was also quick and effective. Barbashev is great at both ends of the ice and he possesses a nice shot. He was also a nightmare for other teams while killing penalties.
Colton Parayko – I wrote about Parakyo yesterday, but to reiterate: the captain of the team was a physical presence who played an all-around game and used his bomb point shot effectively.
Tommy Vannelli – I’ve always thought of Vannelli as a prototypical offensive defenseman. And while he does have those qualities, he also played with a nice physical edge, which was good to see.
Dylan Larkin – Another top player in the tourney, Larkin lived up to billing. He’s fast, fearless and has great awareness. Put up nice offensive numbers while still being that guy you can always trust in your lineup.
Tyler Bertuzzi – The Wings didn’t play great in the title game, but Bertuzzi was a beast. His combination of nastiness and skill reminds me of Brad Marchand or Brendan Gallagher and Todd’s nephew has a crazy competitive spark in his game.
Andreas Athanasiou – His speed is incredible when he turns on the jets and Athanasiou was even blocking shots to preserve a key win against Dallas. Great wrist shot, too. His tournament ended on a down note when he sparked a mini-riot by shooting the puck at Kerby Rychel as time expired in the final.
Evgeny Svechnikov – For a teenager in his first Traverse City tournament, Svechnikov looked really solid. He uses his big body along the boards and is willing to pay the price. The hands are pretty nifty too when he’s around the net.
Anthony Mantha – It’s no secret that defense and engagement away from the puck are needs for Mantha. The scoring acumen is there, but those other areas need improvement.
Joonas Korpisalo – It wasn’t a big tourney for goaltending, but Korpisalo was excellent in the final. The big Finn has quick, powerful legs, taking away much of the bottom of the net. Definitely better when he doesn’t wander too far from the crease.
Kerby Rychel – Rychel clearly took the shutout loss to New York to heart and rebounded with a force of nature performance in the title game. Fast, thick-bodied and physical, he charged all over the ice and used his sick hands to snipe and dish.
Oliver Bjorkstrand – In the first game I saw, Bjorkstrand looked like he needed to get stronger, but I didn’t see that in the final. Instead, I just saw the usual Danish dynamo, whose speed and wrist shot make him a threat to score nearly every shift.
Dillon Heatherington – Concentrating on his own end for the most part, Heatherington was an absolute beast against Detroit, throwing his weight around and punishing Wings all night.
Sonny Milano – I liked Milano in Traverse City. He was confident with the puck and when he didn’t have it, he was hunting for it. Very creative as a playmaker, his passes didn’t always hit, but you could see what he was going for, even if his linemates couldn`t make the connection.